21 Oct 2010

Enforce existing legal aid standards, urges lawyer

2:07 pm on 21 October 2010

MPs have been told it is bewildering that a lot of money is being spent on fixing problems with the legal aid system, which could be solved under existing law.

Law changes are being made to legal aid following a report last year by Dame Margaret Bazley that identified some lawyers were abusing the system.

Parliament's Justice and Electoral Select Committe has been hearing submissions on legislation what will move the Legal Services Agency into the Ministry of Justice.

Noel Sainsbury from the Wellington Criminal Bar Association says issues with incompetent and unethical lawyers won't be solved by the changes, and what's needed is the will to enforce standards that already exist.

Mr Sainsbury told the committee changes which will prevent people getting legal aid from choose their own lawyers are insane.

He says people who come before courts with high-level charges are disproportianately disadvantaged by poverty, abuse and addiction problems.

The Family Law Section of the Law Society also stressed it was important for people to choose their own lawyer as problems in families such as violence get revealed only if a client trusts their legal representative.